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Virtually Everyone Agrees That Current Stock Market Valuations Are Not Sustainable And That A Great Crash Is Coming February 21, 2017

Stock Market Collapse Toilet Paper - Public DomainCurrent stock market valuations are not sustainable.  If there is one thing that I want you to remember from this article, it is that cold, hard fact.  In 1929, 2000 and 2008, stock prices soared to absolutely absurd levels just before horrible stock market crashes.  What goes up must eventually come down, and the stock market bubble of today will be no exception.  In fact, virtually everyone in the financial community acknowledges that stock prices are irrationally high right now.  Some are suggesting that there is still time to jump in and make money before the crash comes, while others are recommending a much more cautious approach.  But what almost everyone agrees on is the fact that stocks cannot go up like this forever.

On Tuesday, the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all set brand new record highs once again.  Overall, U.S. stocks are now up more than 10 percent since the election, and this is probably the greatest post-election stock market rally in our entire history.

But stocks were already tremendously overvalued before the election, and at this point stock prices have reached a level of ridiculousness only matched a couple of times before in the past 100 years.

Only the most extreme optimists will try to tell you that stock prices can stay this disconnected from economic reality indefinitely.  We are in the midst of one of the most outrageous stock market bubbles of all time, and as MarketWatch has noted, all stock market bubbles eventually burst…

The U.S. stock market at this level reflects a combination of great demand, great complacency, and great greed. Stocks are clearly in a bubble, and like all bubbles, this one is about to burst.

If corporations were making tremendous amounts of money, rapidly rising stock prices would make logical sense.

But that is not the case at all.  Corporate earnings for the fourth quarter of 2016 were actually quite dismal, and this disconnect between Wall Street and economic reality is starting to really bug financial analysts such as Brian Sozzi

The S&P 500 has gone 89 straight sessions without a 1% decline. Considering that Corporate America didn’t exactly light up on the top and bottom lines during the fourth quarter, such a streak is rather troublesome. Granted, the stock market is a forward-looking mechanism that appears to be trading on hopes that Trump’s unannounced stimulus and tax plans will be lifting economic growth in 2018. Even so, the inability of investors to at least acknowledge persistent struggles among companies and ongoing chaos in Washington is starting to become disturbing.

It is a basic fact of economics that stock prices should accurately reflect current and future earnings.

So if corporate earnings are at the same level they were at in 2011, why has the S&P 500 risen by 87 percent since then?  The following comes from Wolf Richter

The S&P 500 stock index edged up to an all-time high of 2,351 on Friday. Total market capitalization of the companies in the index exceeds $20 trillion. That’s 106% of US GDP, for just 500 companies! At the end of 2011, the S&P 500 index was at 1,257. Over the five-plus years since then, it has ballooned by 87%!

These are superlative numbers, and you’d expect superlative earnings performance from these companies. Turns out, reality is not that cooperative. Instead, net income of the S&P 500 companies is now back where it first had been at the end of 2011.

The cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio was originally created by author Robert Shiller, and it is widely regarded as one of the best measures of the true value of stocks in existence.  According to the Guardian, there have only been two times in our entire history when this ratio has been higher.  One was just before the stock market crash of 1929, and the other was just before the bursting of the dotcom bubble…

Traditionally, one of the best yardsticks for whether shares are over-valued or under-valued has been the cyclically adjusted price earnings ratio constructed by the economist Robert Shiller. This ratio is currently at about 29 and has only twice been higher: in 1929 ahead of the Wall Street Crash, and in the last frantic months of the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s.

We can definitely wish for the current euphoria on Wall Street to last for as long as possible, but let there be absolutely no doubt that it is going to end at some point.

It would take a market decline of 40 or 50 percent to get the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio back to a level that makes economic sense.  Let us hope that the market does not make such a violent move very rapidly, because that would likely be absolutely crippling for our financial system.

Markets tend to go down a lot faster than they go up, and every other major stock market bubble in U.S. history has ended very badly.

And this bubble is definitely overdue to burst.  The bull market that led up to the great crash of 1929 lasted for 2002 days, and this week the current bull market will finally exceed that record.

Trying to pick a specific date for a market crash is typically a fruitless exercise, but market watchers are becoming very concerned about some of the signs that we are now seeing.  For example, the “CCT indicator” is currently showing “the lowest bullish energy ever”

The first factor is the CCT indicator. This indicator is a proprietary internal measurement of the general volume of the New York Stock Exchange. The measurements take into account the institutional participation as a ratio of the overall volume. Also measured is the duration of heavy block buying in rallies.

The sum total of all the measurements now shows the lowest bullish energy ever — even lower than in 2008, just before the market crash.

In other words, this current bull market appears to be completely and utterly exhausted.

The laws of economics cannot be defied forever.  Traditionally, commodity prices and stock prices have tended to move in unison.  And this makes perfect sense, because commodity prices tend to rise when economic conditions are good, and in such an environment stock prices are typically going to move up.

But now we are in a time when commodity prices and stock prices have become completely disconnected.  In order to bring this ratio back into line, the S&P 500 would need to fall by about 1000 points, and such a decline would cause a level of financial chaos that would be absolutely unprecedented.

This current stock market bubble has lasted much longer than many of the experts originally anticipated, but that just means that the eventual crash will likely be that much more devastating.

In the end, you don’t need to know all of the technical details in this article.

But what you do need to know is that current stock market valuations are not sustainable and that a great crash is coming.

It may not happen next week or next month, but it is going to happen.  And when it does happen, it is likely to make what happened in 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

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Is It Just A Coincidence That The Dow Has Hit 20,000 At The Same Time The National Debt Is Reaching $20 Trillion? January 25, 2017

Dow Fueled By DebtThe Dow Jones Industrial Average provides us with some pretty strong evidence that our “stock market boom” has been fueled by debt.  On Wednesday, the Dow crossed the 20,000 mark for the first time ever, and this comes at a time when the U.S. national debt is right on the verge of hitting 20 trillion dollars.  Is this just a coincidence?  As you will see, there has been a very close correlation between the national debt and the Dow Jones Industrial Average for a very long time.

For example, when Ronald Reagan took office in 1991, the U.S. national debt had just hit 994 billion dollars and the Dow was sitting at 951.  And as you can see from this chart by Matterhorn.gold via David Stockman, roughly that same ratio has held true throughout subsequent presidential administrations…

Dow Fueled By Debt

During the Clinton years the Dow raced out ahead of the national debt, but an “adjustment” during the Bush years brought things back into line.

The cold hard truth is that we have been living way above our means for decades.  Our “prosperity” has been fueled by the greatest debt binge in the history of the world, and we are greatly fooling ourselves if we think otherwise.

We would never have gotten to 20,000 on the Dow if Barack Obama and Congress had not gotten us into an extra 9.3 trillion dollars of debt over the past eight years.

Unfortunately, most people do not understand this, and the mainstream media is treating “Dow 20,000″ as if it is some sort of great historical achievement

The average began tracking the most powerful corporate stocks in 1896, and has served as a broad measure of the market’s health through 22 presidents, 22 recessions, a Great Depression, at least two crashes and innumerable rallies, corrections, bull and bear markets. The blue chip reading finally cracked the 20,000 benchmark for the first time early Wednesday.

During the current bull market, the second longest in history, the Dow has more than tripled since March 2009.

Since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory, the Dow has now climbed by approximately 2150 points.

And it took just 64 calendar days for the Dow to go from 19,000 to 20,000.  That is an astounding pace, and financial markets around the rest of the planet are doing very well right now too.  In fact, global stocks rose to a 19 month high on Wednesday.

So where do we go from here?

Well, if Donald Trump wants to see Dow 30,000 during his presidency, then history tells us that he needs to take us to 30 trillion dollars in debt.

Of course that would be absolute insanity even if it was somehow possible.  Each additional dollar of debt destroys the future of our country just a little bit more, and at some point this colossal bubble is going to burst.

But you can’t tell most of the “financial experts” these things.  Most of them simply believe that the “market always goes higher over time”

The “market always goes higher over time,” Todd Morgan, chairman of Bel Air Investment Advisors. “The lesson here is that through wars, recessions, elections, impeachments, financial crises, and on and on, investing for the long term in high-quality stocks is the key to building wealth. … We are telling our clients that you can’t time the market. Think long term. Stay the course. We expect the market to see Dow 30,000 in my lifetime, and for my grandchildren to see Dow 50,000 in their lifetime.”

My hope is that the market will continue to go up.  But nobody can deny that valuations are already at absurdly high levels, and the only way that this party can keep going is to continue to fuel it with more and more debt.

But for the moment, there is a tremendous amount of optimism out there, and most experts expect the Dow to continue to set new highs.  In fact, CNBC says that whenever the Dow crosses a new threshold like this it usually means good things for investors…

CNBC looked at market data from the past 30 years and zeroed in on the times when the Dow has crossed levels like 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 … all the way up to the 19,000 level it hit in November. At those times, investors can typically expect traders to push it up even higher, according to data from Kensho. Not only does the Dow go up, but it outperforms the S&P 500 index along the way.

But as USA Today has explained, not all Americans are benefiting from this stock market rally…

The breakthrough came just four trading days into Trump’s presidency, a whirlwind in which the billionaire has reaffirmed his commitment to strengthen the U.S. economy and create more jobs and higher wages for workers. Still, nearly half of Americans have not benefited from the so-called “Trump Rally,” which has generated more than $2.2 trillion in paper gains for the Wilshire 5000 Total Stock Index since Election Day. The reason: only 52% of Americans polled by Gallup last April said they “have money invested in stocks” — the lowest stock ownership rate in the 19 years Gallup has tracked the data and down sharply from 65% in 2007 before the financial crisis.

Hopefully the good times will continue to roll for as long as possible.

But there is no possible way that they can keep going indefinitely.

For decades, our debt has been growing much faster than our GDP has.  By definition, this is an unsustainable situation.  At some point we will have accumulated so much debt that our financial system will no longer be able to hold up under the strain.

Many were convinced that we would reach that point before the U.S. national debt hit 20 trillion dollars, and yet here we are.

So how much higher can we go before the bubble bursts?

That is a very good question, and I don’t know if anyone has the right answer.

But for President Trump, this is going to present him with quite a dilemma.

Either he can keep the debt party going for as long as possible, or he can try to get us to take some tough financial medicine right now.

If an attempt is made to deal with our debt problems now, we will experience severe economic pain almost immediately.

But if the can keeps being kicked down the road, our long-term prognosis is just going to keep getting worse and worse.

And if we try to delay the inevitable indefinitely, at some point the laws of economics are going to make our hard choices for us.

So let us celebrate “Dow 20,000″, but let us also understand that it is far more likely that we will see “Dow 10,000″ again before we ever see “Dow 30,000″.

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Why Are Wal-Mart And Boeing Laying Off Workers If The U.S. Economy Is In Good Shape? January 11, 2017

wal-mart-photo-by-mikemozartjeepersmediaThe stock market has been on quite a roll in recent weeks, but signs of trouble continue to plague the real economy.  Earlier this week, I talked about the “retail apocalypse” that is sweeping America.  Major retail chains such as Sears and Macy’s are closing stores and laying off workers, but I didn’t think that Wal-Mart would be feeling the pain as well.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening.  USA Today is reporting that approximately 1,000 jobs will be cut at Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas by the end of this month…

Walmart’s plan to lay off of hundreds of employees is the latest ripple in a wave of job cuts and store closures that are roiling the retail industry.

The world’s largest retailer is cutting roughly 1,000 jobs at its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., later this month, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak about it.

The company is saying that these cuts are necessary because Wal-Mart is always “looking for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively“.  But something doesn’t smell right here.  You don’t get rid of 1,000 employees at your corporate headquarters if everything is just fine.

I have driven past Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville a number of times, and it is in a beautiful part of the country.  Bentonville and the surrounding areas had been booming, but it looks like times may be changing.

Meanwhile, there are signs of trouble out on the west coast as well.  The Los Angeles Times is reporting that there is going to be a new round of engineering job cuts at Boeing…

Boeing Co. has internally announced a new round of employee buyouts for engineers companywide, including in Southern California, and warned that layoff notices will follow later this month to engineers in Washington state, where the company has a large presence.

Management did not cite a target for the number of projected job cuts.

The news comes after company Vice Chairman Ray Conner and the new chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, or BCA, Kevin McAllister, warned in December of the need to aim for further cuts in 2017.

And according to Boeing spokesperson Doug Alder, similar job cut announcements are coming for other classes of workers as well.

So why is Boeing getting rid of so many employees?

Well, the truth is that Boeing’s business is way down.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Business has been tough. In 2016, deliveries fell by 14 jets from a year ago, to 748. Net orders dropped 13% from an already rotten level in 2015, to just 668, down 53% from 2014. And the lowest level since 2010!

When the economy is doing well, air traffic tends to rise, and when the economy is doing poorly it tends to go down.

Needless to say, the fact that Boeing is doing so poorly does not bode well for the future.

In addition to Wal-Mart, another major retailer that is letting people go is Petco

Petco is cutting 180 positions with about 50 at its San Diego headquarters, the pet supply retailer confirmed Wednesday.

The company made the cuts across its workforce and include both existing and open positions.

Petco has about 650 workers at its headquarters in Rancho Bernardo. It employs 27,000 in the U.S.

My wife and I have three cats, and even though Petco tends to be a bit overpriced we have always appreciated the work that they do.

Unfortunately, when the economy gets tough spending on pets tends to be one of the first things to get cut back, and this current trouble at Petco could be a sign that rough sledding is ahead for the entire economy.

Of course your personal perspective on these things is likely to be very heavily influenced by your immediate surroundings.  Those that live in wealthy enclaves of major cities such as San Francisco, New York City or Washington D.C. may be wondering how anyone could possibly be talking about economic trouble right now.

But if you live in economically depressed areas of Appalachia or the upper Midwest, it may seem like the last economic recession never even ended.

There have been pockets of economic prosperity in recent years, and this has resulted in some people becoming exceedingly wealthy.  Meanwhile, things have just continued to become even tougher for millions of other families as the cost of living always seems to grow faster than their paychecks do.

If you are in the top one percent of all income earners, maybe to you it seems like things have never been better.  But most of the country is living paycheck to paycheck and is just struggling to survive from month to month.  The following comes from CNN

The rich are money-making machines. Today, the top mega wealthy — the top 1% — earn an average of $1.3 million a year. It’s more than three times as much as the 1980s, when the rich “only” made $428,000, on average, according to economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

Meanwhile, the bottom 50% of the American population earned an average of $16,000 in pre-tax income in 1980. That hasn’t changed in over three decades.

The workers being laid off at the companies discussed above are real people with real hopes and real dreams.  Perhaps many of them will be able to land other employment fairly soon, but the truth is that the job market is really tough in many areas of the country right now.

Finding a good job that will allow you to pay the bills and support your family is not easy.  You may find that out the hard way if you end up losing your current job during the economic troubles that will come in 2017.

Earlier today, I came across an excellent article by Gail Tverberg that detailed a whole bunch of reasons why a significant economic downturn appears to be imminent in 2017.  If you would like to read it, you can find it here.  She points to many of the same things that I have been pointing to for a very long time.

Even though economic conditions were fairly stable throughout 2016, our long-term problems just continued to get even worse.  So the truth is that we are more primed for a major crisis today than we have been at any point since the last recession.

My hope is that things will not be nearly as bad in 2017 as Gail Tverberg and others are projecting that they could be, but the warning signs are definitely there, and it isn’t going to take much to push the U.S. economy off the rails.

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